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29 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Modhumita Celebrates 50 Years

Iftekhar Uddin Naushad
By Bipul K Debnath
Modhumita Celebrates 50 Years

Modhumita Cinema Hall, one of the best known movie theatres in Dhaka, started its journey on December 1, 1967 through screening of the Hollywood blockbuster, Cleopatra. The cinema hall, located at Motijheel in the capital, celebrated its golden jubilee earlier this month. Iftekhar Uddin Naushad, 64, the present owner of Modhumita Cinema Hall and president of Bangladesh Motion Pictures Exhibitors Association (BMPEA), recently talked to The Weekend Independent about the hall’s historical journey over the past 50 years.

Please tell us about the history of Modhumita Cinema Hall. We have been in the entertainment business for last 50 years and we are still trying to survive in the present. My father, Mohammad Siraj Uddin, was an established industrialist in the 1950s. An incident in 1964 played a key role in the founding of Modhumita. At the time, an Indian film, ‘Mahanagar’ by Satyajit Ray, was released at Balaka hall and my father needed 12 tickets to watch it with his friends.  But they gave him only two tickets. So, he got angry and promised to have his own cinema hall. That’s how Modhumita cinema hall was established on December 1, 1967. The hall is built on an area of three bigha (nearly two acres) and 1,221 viewers can watch a film together.
What is the significance of the name ‘Modhumita’?
My father liked the name Modhumita. Here, ‘modhu’ means honey (in Bangla) and ‘mita’ means friend. Thus, the name means ‘sweet friend’. So, we have been making sweet friends with our lovely and friendly audience for the past 50 years.

Tell us some stories about the hall.
The hall has been entertaining people for 50 years. We have screened many good films, like Cleopatra, Lord Jim, Fall of the Roman Empire and so on. Our viewer could trust us to show good quality movies. So, film producers used to come to us eagerly. There was also a common belief that if Modhumita released a film, the other cinema halls of the country would also be happy to screen it. It is because they knew about the reputation of Modhumita.

How can we promote Bangladeshi cinema?
Filmmakers must get experience from other countries and have a strong team to make good films. They have to watch more foreign films and learn a lot about our own cultural heritage and the golden past of our film industry.

You are in favour of importing Indian movies?
I support it because our local film industry cannot fulfil the demand of (releasing new films) 52 weeks of the year. We, cinema hall owners, never asked for Indian films in the past 44 years because we produced 100 films a year. But now, only 35 to 40 films are made, and out of them, only 10 to 15 films are fit for screening in our halls. For that reason, only 300 out of 1,200 cinema halls, most of which opened in the 1980s, are now fighting for survival amid huge losses.
So before it is too late, the government should seriously think about allowing a minimum number of Indian films to be screened in the halls, to help them exist. The middle-class people, who are our main audience, are now missing on the cheapest source of entertainment. Besides, the young generation might turn to bad things for entertainment if we deprive them of the chance to enjoy good movies in the theatre.

What do you think is the reason behind fewer people watching movies in the cinema?
Audiences are not coming to the cinema halls because few good films are made now. Besides, people have many choices now for entertainment, like the internet, smart phones, television, computers and more. Without finding good quality films to watch, they are using those other sources rather than going to the cinema halls.

What is the importance of Modhumita hall now?
Its importance is immense as we have been in this business for 50 years. Many movie fans love this cinema hall because they get the opportunity to enjoy films with modern Dolby Digital audio system. They also enjoy watching good Hollywood and numerous hit Bangla films here.

Tell us your future plan for Modhumita cinema hall.
See, this is our family institution and so, I want to continue its journey. We have a plan to construct a modern cine complex, with food courts and children’s play zone here so that people can enjoy films with their friends and families. n

Photos: Courtesy

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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